St. John's Basketball Preview: #74
Overall Rank: #74
Conference Rank: #11 Big East Conference
2008-09: 16-18, 6-12
2008-09 postseason: CBI
Coach: Norm Roberts (64-85 at St. John’s, 64-85 overall)
St. John’s continues to struggle in the Big East and ended last year with a losing overall record and a mere six wins in conference play. But the team managed to survive through a rash of injuries and made the CBI. It may not be the tournament Red Storm fans hoped for, but it is a step in the right direction. With the team’s top ten scorers returning, Coach Norm Roberts is ready to take the next step.
Key Losses: G TyShwan Edmondson
If the injury bug continues to strike, Coach Roberts will have able bodies this year. Junior college transfers Dwight Hardy and Justin Brownlee will light a spark under returning players who think their starting jobs are safe. Hardy is a superb outside shooter and should at least provide a shooter off the bench. Brownlee is a great all-around player who is 6-7, but can pass the ball like a point guard. Wing Omari Lawrence was a nice pickup for the Red Storm and it may be difficult to keep him off the floor. Add point guard Malik Stith to the mix and this is a really good class.
The battles for playing time will be very interesting all over the floor. The one thing that is probably most certain is that Malik Boothe will be running the point. Boothe was a little turnover happy as a sophomore, but he did dish out 4.4 assists per game and should emerge as a leader this year. Paris Horne was the team’s top scorer last year. While he takes a few too many outside shots, Horne has a great mid-range game and can score in bunches when his shot is falling. D.J. Kennedy is not much of a shooter either, but he is the likely candidate to start beside Horne on the wing. At 6-6, Kennedy uses his size and speed to get to the basket. With an emerging player like Quincy Roberts and the talented newcomers, the backcourt appears to be in good shape.
It was Sean Evans and Justin Burrell who started a majority of the games in the frontcourt last year. Both are quality scorers, but Evans is a better rebounder and spends more time under the basket. Burrell will step outside and hit the mid-range jumper and that will stretch out the opposing defense and make room for Horne and Kennedy to get to the basket. Rob Thomas always seems to be hurt, but when he is healthy he can be a great player off the bench. And Dele Coker is a promising prospect if he can beat out Thomas and Brownlee for minutes off of the bench.
Who to Watch:
The most talented player on St. John’s team has hardly played lately. Anthony Mason Jr. was given a medical hardship from the NCAA and will get another year of eligibility after only playing in three games last year. When he has been healthy, Mason Jr. has been a dynamic scorer and a capable rebounder. In 2007-2008 he led the team with 14.0 points per game, but missed part of the season with an injury. If he can stay healthy, St. John’s is suddenly a much more talented team.
Even without Mason Jr. this is a much better and more experienced squad than the Red Storm has had in recent years. And while many teams in the Big East retool, it could be a surprisingly good season for Coach Roberts. There are teams in the conference that are much more talented, but St. John’s finally has enough bodies to make things interesting even if players like Mason Jr. cannot stay on the floor. In the end, a jump to the NCAA Tournament is asking a little too much, but this group should surprise a few teams and at least have an overall winning record.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Malik Boothe, Junior, Guard, 6.4 points per game
Paris Horne, Junior, Guard, 14.6 points per game
D.J. Kennedy, Junior, Guard, 13.0 points per game
Anthony Mason, Jr., Senior, Forward, 14.0 points per game
Sean Evans, Junior, Forward, 10.3 points per game
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